Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

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Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby Curious Reader » Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:49 pm

But, at least it doesn't concern file and suspend, DRCs, early applications, etc., etc.

In a nutshell, here's the situation about which I was just informed (I can provide/get additional info as necessary for analysis):

Husband receiving benefits on his own record. Married for more than 10 years to teacher who didn't participate in SS (and as far as I know wasn't otherwise qualified for SS). Husband died 8 years ago. Widow evidently told soon after his death that she did not qualify as a widow. Widow may not have asked the correct questions.

Is there any disqualifier from widow status under SS because of her status as a teacher (may now be former teacher, if that is relevant. Believe widow is at least 62 if not FRA.

Thanks for any info or referral to regs, cases, whatnot.
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby Oicuryy » Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:08 pm

Here is the GPO calculator.
http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/gpo-calc.htm

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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby sscritic » Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:11 pm

1) Age matters. Say she is 64 today. 8 years ago she was 56. If she had tried to apply, she would have been told no.
(c) You are at least 60 years old; or you are at least 50 years old and have a disability as defined in § 404.1505 and you meet all of the conditions in paragraphs (c)(1) through (4) of this section:
http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OP_Home/c ... 4-0335.htm

2) Is she collecting a pension that is based on non-covered (i.e., not part of social security) wages? If so, there is a government pension offset (GPO).
If you receive a pension from a federal, state or local government based on work where you did not pay Social Security taxes, your Social Security spouse’s or widow’s or widower’s benefits may be reduced.
...
Your Social Security benefits will be reduced by two-thirds of your government pension. In other words, if you get a monthly civil service pension of $600, two-thirds of that, or $400, must be deducted from your Social Security benefits. For example, if you are eligible for a $500 spouse’s, widow’s or widower’s benefit from Social Security, you will receive $100 per month from Social Security ($500 – $400 = $100).
http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10007.pdf

If her husband didn't have a strong work record and had full retirement age benefit of $1000, then if she has a teacher's (non-covered) pension of $1500, she would get zero from social security.
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby Curious Reader » Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:20 pm

Yeah, those thoughts were pretty much what went through my mind when I heard about this. I believe that she is receiving a teacher's retirement pension and is FRA but I will inquire. And I also believe the deceased husband's SS benefit was greater than her pension. I will check on all those points. My guess is that the widow didn't understand what she was asking or what she may have been told by SSA. I was simply wondering whether there was an outright disqualification of continuation benefits because of her status as a retired teacher (as opposed to an offset calculation). I didn't think so but wanted to know if I was missing a simple (though unfortunate) answer.

Thanks for the responses.
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby sscritic » Thu Mar 01, 2012 12:03 am

Another thought. If she started as a widow before 66, she would have received a reduced amount. It is possible that her GPO could have offset 100% of that reduced benefit but won't offset all of the full age 66 widow's benefit. Thus, depending when she asked the question, the answer might have been "nothing" then but "something" now.
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby Rich Cape Cod » Thu Mar 01, 2012 12:52 am

She may be impacted by the SS regulation "Government Pension Offset." If you receive a pension, in which you did not pay into SS, you are likely to receive no SS monies from a spouses account. The SS formula calculating such a person's pension makes very serious cuts if such is the case (even zeroing SS out completely).

She ought to check the SS website out and put in "Government Pension Offset" to get all the facts on this reg.

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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby nisiprius » Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:21 am

She ought to brace herself for the possibility of rejection, and make an appointment to talk to someone at the local social security office. (I believe you get better answers in person at the local office than over the phone from wherever the call center is). Or if that's too much she should just call.

1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. (Hmm... they don't say what time zone... insensitive clods!)

She can be perfectly upfront. She can say she was told eight years ago that she did not qualify, but she is eight years older now and did not take notes and is not sure whether she was told she was ineligible forever or just ineligible then.

The social security people are there to help. And it won't be the first call they've ever gotten from someone in a situation like that. She should ask. Maybe she'll get told "no." She won't be much worse off than before. Outcome A: Mild anxiety until the appointment, then a cold prickly feeling after rejection and feel lousy for a couple of hours until the sun comes out. Outcome B: direct deposits every month into your bank account. The odds would have to be pretty bad not to make it worth a try.
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby sscritic » Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:35 am

I agree with nisiprius that most of the staff want to be helpful, but that doesn't mean they will always get things right. The correct strategy is the one recommended to lawyers at trial: never ask a question for which you do not already know the answer. Get your facts lined up; come back here with the facts; get references to the Code of Federal Regulations or other official social security material that answers your question; print them out; and take them with you to the meeting.

Note: if the materials show that you are not entitled, don't take them with you, tuck them in the bottom desk drawer. Maybe the staff at social security won't get things right and give you the money anyway.
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby pshonore » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:03 am

Good strategy; however it can be tough to get the facts straight. My wife is retired teacher whose pension is made up of three pieces; 1. typical benefit (x% per yr X Yrs of service X avg salary for last 3 yrs, etc) 2. A separate anuity portion purchased with her funds at retirement, and 3. An annual COLA (equal to SS COLA). So how much is her pension? I would say the total, yet most of her documents only refer to the first piece as her "pension" and I think any official document from the Pension Board might also use that number. Of course her 1099R shows the total. How would SS treat that?
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby sscritic » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:09 am

pshonore wrote:Good strategy; however it can be tough to get the facts straight. My wife is retired teacher whose pension is made up of three pieces; 1. typical benefit (x% per yr X Yrs of service X avg salary for last 3 yrs, etc) 2. A separate anuity portion purchased with her funds at retirement, and 3. An annual COLA (equal to SS COLA). So how much is her pension? I would say the total, yet most of her documents only refer to the first piece as her "pension" and I think any official document from the Pension Board might also use that number. Of course her 1099R shows the total. How would SS treat that?

Where did the funds come from to purchase the annuity? I did some reading on the GPO in the POMS before, and it gets a little complicated. For example, if you separate from service and take a lump sum, social security will calculate a monthly pension equivalent and use that for the GPO.
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby sscritic » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:12 am

In my state system, you could buy "airtime" (extra years of service credit) to boost your retirement (under certain circumstances to match years of service outside the system). Now the GPO doesn't apply as the system is in social security, but I can imagine if the funds used to buy the extra pension came from your taxable account, it wouldn't be part of the GPO calculation.
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby pshonore » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:21 am

I believe funds can come from taxable or separate retirement funds. If taxable, it increases "investment in contract" and makes a small portion of it non-taxable, as do her after tax contributions made during teaching career. That raises another question. Is the non-taxable portion reported on her 1099R part of her "pension" for GPO purposes?
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby sscritic » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:33 am

pshonore wrote:I believe funds can come from taxable or separate retirement funds. If taxable, it increases "investment in contract" and makes a small portion of it non-taxable, as do her after tax contributions made during teaching career. That raises another question. Is the non-taxable portion reported on her 1099R part of her "pension" for GPO purposes?

You are really trying to provoke me to go read the POMS aren't you? :D

1) It's too early in the morning.
2) I update my net worth spreadsheet on the first of each month, so that will have me busy for a while.
3) I am meeting my granddaughter's class at a museum near my place; it's a field trip for them.

Maybe later, but in the meantime, you are welcome to start reading here:
GN 02608.100 General Rules for Government Pension Offset (GPO)
https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202608100
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby PreserveCapital » Thu Mar 01, 2012 3:38 pm

sscritic wrote:I agree with nisiprius that most of the staff want to be helpful, but that doesn't mean they will always get things right. The correct strategy is the one recommended to lawyers at trial: never ask a question for which you do not already know the answer. Get your facts lined up; come back here with the facts; get references to the Code of Federal Regulations or other official social security material that answers your question; print them out; and take them with you to the meeting.

Note: if the materials show that you are not entitled, don't take them with you, tuck them in the bottom desk drawer. Maybe the staff at social security won't get things right and give you the money anyway.


Not.
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Re: Yes, ANOTHER Social Security Question

Postby sscritic » Thu Mar 01, 2012 6:30 pm

PreserveCapital wrote:
sscritic wrote:Note: if the materials show that you are not entitled, don't take them with you, tuck them in the bottom desk drawer. Maybe the staff at social security won't get things right and give you the money anyway.

Not.

Not tuck them in the bottom drawer?
Not the social security folks might make an error?

English is funny that way; one word can be interpreted two ways.

Is it your responsibility to do the Highway Patrol's job for them and give yourself a ticket when you speed? Is it your responsibility to do Social Security's job for it and deny yourself a benefit?

I do believe that if they give you a benefit and you truly believe your are not entitled, then you should point out to them that they gave you too much money. Example. I get my medicare B reimbursed. I pay IRMAA. In 2010, SS put me in the second level of IRMAA. I appealed, however I continued to accept reimbursement for the amount I was actually paying, even if I believed that the amount was too high (on both sides). Eleven months later, my appeal was granted. Social security sent me a check for the overpayment. Once I had the overpayment, I wrote to my reimburser to tell them I owed them money for their over reimbursement. But I didn't refuse the incorrect amount as long as social security was charging me the incorrect amount.

Note: it took me more than one word to explain my meaning. You might try using more than one word next time when your one word can be read two different ways.
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